Bandwidth still being hijacked by piracy

Travis Perry

Washburn’s connection to the high-seas of the Internet have been populated by piracy for several years, but like Jack Sparrow, many students may finally have met their Kraken in form of the “Net Enforcer.”

Designed to act as a network filter, Mike Gunter, director of Information and Systems Services, hopes to rip a hole in the sails powering copyright piracy. Voiced to the students as a problem last fall, Gunter said he hasn’t seen much of a change in bandwidth consumption.

“I’ve talked to a lot of students that have stopped [downloading], but I haven’t really seen the problem disappear,” said Gunter.

The network filter is being brought in as a last resort to control illegal network traffic on Washburn’s 20 megabit-per-second Internet connection. Gunter would prefer to be able to work out the issue with students rather than force a stop, but he said something needs to be done.

“One of the things we were going to do is to use that box to throttle-back and prioritize traffic during the day,” said Gunter. “During the day we would prioritize the music-file traffic down to the point where if we got lots of Web traffic, we might get zero music files.”

Last fall, Washburn received several notices from the Recording Industry of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, alleging Washburn students were illegally downloading copyrighted materials, prompting the university to bring the issue to the student body. While there have been no further notices, this is not the first time the issue has cropped up at Washburn. However, it has never been brought to the students before.

“It seems like it’s kind of followed the adoption of the iPod,” said Gunter. “The more who’ve gotten iPods, the more people who’re downloading music.”

In order to help decide what kind of traffic the Net Enforcer will regulate, ISS has requested the Washburn Student Government Association recommend several students for a committee to deliberate the details of the filter. Those students are Josh Maples, David Reed and Daniel Usera.

“We can’t just get rid of Limewire [a peer-to-peer dowloading program],” said Usera, a junior political science and philosophy major. “Everybody’s going to want to download music. My recommendation is that we look at some kind of legal service.”

The idea suggested by Usera is one currently offered by online music sources like the iTunes Music Store and Napster, both of which would offer different packages to act as a legal conduit for music downloading on campus. iTunes offers a service called iTunes U, which not only allows students the convenience of downloading legal music from a reputable source, but it also allows the university to post things like lectures, notes and other academic materials for download by students. Among those already participating in the program are the University of California, Berkely, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Stanford University.

The program offered by Napster would allow free downloading of music to the user’s computer, but if they wanted to burn it to a CD or synchronize it to their MP3 player they would have to purchase the rights to the song.

“With Napster or iTunes you don’t have to worry about viruses,” said Usera. “You don’t have to worry about spyware, you don’t have to worry about the FBI busting into your room.”

While he realizes many students may be apprehensive to the thought of paying for downloaded music, Usera said if it is advertised and made readily-available to students, they would at least have an alternative to using illegal services.

“I’m not afraid to completely stop [illegal downloading], but only if it’s unavoidable,” said Usera.